The Magic of Touch

Viktor and Annie Reinhardt / AWI / 81 pages

Placing rats in an open field increases their level of the stress hormone prolactin. There is something, however, that can temper this stress response: the ability to touch another rat. Captive chimpanzees groom each other prior to dinnertime, evidently as a balm against potential food-related aggression. A nurse learned early on “that a reassuring touch could calm anxiety and get someone through a frightening procedure.”

Intriguing studies and arresting anecdotes fill the pages of the new second edition of The Magic of Touch: Healing Effects of Animal Touch & Animal Presence, by Viktor and Annie Reinhardt. Viktor and Annie share many decades of keen animal observation and ethological research. (For many years, Viktor was a laboratory animal advisor and Annie an information specialist for AWI. Viktor now serves on our scientific committee.) Their beautiful book, with its scientific evidence and heartwarming photographs, delves deeply into the critical role of physical contact in the lives of social animals, including humans.

The effect is not limited to same-species interactions. Dogs and other animals are often engaged to ease the depression and anxiety of people who have suffered traumatic life events; companion animals can make emotionally challenging tasks easier and medical procedures less scary. Humans can have the same effect on other animals—and this fact can have profound implications for animals in research, who are often subjected to bewildering, anxiety-producing procedures. Friendly physical interactions with humans in such settings can have a powerful calming effect.

AWI offers one free copy of this book to individuals at research institutions. To obtain your free copy, please visit us online at